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Aponte-Ramos v. Á lvarez-Rubio

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 3, 2015

DAMARIS APONTE-RAMOS; ELIZABETH DE JESUS-AFANADOR; OSVALDO DE LA ROSA-VIDAL; MARTA I. FELICIANO-MONTILLA; JOSE ARNALDO FLORES-GARCIA; WANDA I. GONZÁ LEZ-SEGARRA; MARITZA LEBRÓ N-GARCÍA; DAMARIS MARTÍNEZ-GONZÁ LEZ; SYLVIA MARTÍNEZ-MARTÍNEZ; LUCY A. ORTIZ-RIVAS; DAVID PÉREZ-VÁ ZQUEZ; NEIDA I. RAMOS-TORRES; LORNA S. RIVERA-CORREA; LYDIA PRINCIPE-RODRIGUEZ; CARLOS J. RIVERA-RIVERA; WANDA J. SANTIAGO-SERRANO; MARYLIN SIERRA-GARCIA; EDGARDO TORRES-CABRERA; MARIA D. TORRES-HERNANDEZ; JUAN L. VÁ ZQUEZ-LOPEZ; RAFAEL ZAYAS-MORALES; CATHERINE GONZÁ LEZ-RIVERA; MAYRA L. ALMODOVAR-CORTÉ S; HUMBERTO VERGARA-AGOSTINI; ABRAHAM PÉREZ-VALENTÍN; LILLIAN GARCIA-CHANTA; LUZ E. BURGOS-RAMÍREZ; LUIS R. RAMOS-NAVARRO; FRANCISCO ESPINOSA-HUERTAS; IVETTE DÍAZ-VÁ ZQUEZ; JOSÉ O. RODRÍGUEZ-POMALES; ORLANDO ALDEBOL-BORRERO, Plaintiffs, Appellants, FABIÁ N LABOY-RODRÍGUEZ; OSVALDO DE LA ROSA-VIDAL; HÉ CTOR RIVERA-RIVERA; HÉ CTOR TORRES-RESTO; MARITZA VÁ ZQUEZ-RAMOS; ANTONIO SEDA-ZACOUR; HUMBERTO VERGARA-AGOSTINI; OMAR NEGRÓ N-SANTIAGO, Plaintiffs,
v.
ZOIMÉ Á LVAREZ-RUBIO, in her personal and official capacity as Executive Director of the State Insurance Fund; SAÚ L RIVERA-RIVERA, in his personal and official capacity as Human Services Director of the State Insurance Fund; STATE INSURANCE FUND CORPORATION, Defendants, Appellees

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, U.S. District Judge; Hon. Marcos E. López, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Jorge Martí nez-Luciano, with whom Emil Rodríguez-Escudero and Martí nez-Luciano & Rodríguez-Escudero Law Office were on brief, for appellants.

Damaris Ortiz-Gonzá lez, with whom Sifre & Muñoz-Noya PSC was on brief, for appellee State Insurance Fund Corporation.

Tanaira Padilla-Rodriguez, with whom Susana I. Peñagarícano-Brown, Assistant Solicitor General, and Margarita Mercado-Echegaray, Solicitor General, were on brief, for appellees Zoimé Á lvarez-Rubio and Saú l Rivera-Rivera.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Howard and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 906

LYNCH, Chief Judge.

These two appeals arise out of similar lawsuits in which plaintiffs, current and previous employees of the Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund Corporation (SIFC), have alleged that defendants, the SIFC and its high-level administrators, selectively enforced Puerto Rico's merit principle against them. This " selective enforcement" is said to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.

Plaintiffs were appointed from 2001 to 2008 to career managerial positions at the SIFC. Control of the Puerto Rico government changed parties in early 2009. A later 2009 audit revealed that these plaintiffs were appointed through internal job postings, rather than through open announcements as required by SIFC regulation. Finding the appointments to have violated the merit principle, the new administration annulled the appointments.

The Equal Protection Clause does not provide a basis to undo these employment actions. Rather, this case can be viewed as an effort to circumvent the limits imposed on First Amendment claims. Indeed, we recently affirmed entry of summary judgment for defendants in a suit by a former employee alleging that a similar annulment constituted political discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Reyes-Pérez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., 755 F.3d 49, 50-52, 55 (1st Cir. 2014). These plaintiffs challenge the annulment under the Equal Protection Clause, expressly disavowing any First Amendment claim. The district courts granted summary judgment

Page 907

to defendants because plaintiffs failed to identify similarly situated individuals treated differently by defendants. We affirm on the same basis.

I.

When reviewing a grant of a motion for summary judgment, " we recite the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable ...


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